2/34. Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State (4, 7): Since the Packers’ football renaissance got underway in 1992 they’ve drafted 13 wide receivers in the first three rounds: Robert Brooks, Antonio Freeman, Derrick Mayes, Robert Ferguson, Javon Walker, Terrence Murphy, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Amari Rodgers
In their rookie seasons only, Jones led in receptions (47) and yards (676), Cobb led in average per catch (15.0) and Jennings and Adams led in touchdown catches (three).
The average rookie season for the illustrious group was a meager 20 receptions for 255 yards and 1.4 TDs. Jennings was the only one to make the all-rookie team. Now comes Watson, who unlike all the others hails from an FCS program (formerly Division I-AA). Not only that but he played in a run-first offense in which he blocked for the run more than he ran routes. In 52 games, including 31 starts, he caught merely 105 passes.
Watson (6-4, 208, 4.32) is almost a carbon copy of Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6-4, 202, 4.38). If the Packers are fortunate, Watson will have a rookie season like MVS enjoyed in 2018 after being drafted in the fifth round from South Florida. Only five rookie wideouts that season surpassed his 581 yards. As the 19th wideout drafted, he caught 38, averaged 15.3 and scored twice.
Injuries to Cobb, Geronimo Allison and Jake Kumerow got MVS on the field. He lined up outside, ran mostly take-off and deep over routes and helped force defenses into two-safety shells to open up for the running game and provide Adams with more space underneath. That’s what Watson should be able to do by opening day as well because he can fly. Keep defenses honest, help the run game, block on the perimeter.
At this point, Watson isn’t strong enough. He needs an NFL weight room in addition to NFL coaching. His speed cuts were much more advanced than his hard cuts.
When the ball is thrown to him deep, it’s almost hit or miss if he’ll catch it. He dropped 12 passes in the last two seasons. He can track a home-run ball beautifully one time and flub one the next.
Watson is brainy (38 on the Wonderlic) and an explosive athlete. He probably has more potential than Alec Pierce but probably more of a chance to fail. George Pickens’ ball skills, acrobatic catch ability and SEC background are elements Watson can’t begin to muster. Pickens, however, doesn’t have Watson’s intangibles and speed.
Although Watson did return 26 kickoffs over four seasons for a 26.4 average, several personnel people said he would only get hurt trying to do it in the pros.